44: [2006, 76-85, 3rd NL West]
The Giants contended despite a barrage or injuries and finishing under .500 in 2005. Barry Bonds missed all but two weeks, new right-fielder Moises Alou missed significant time and new closer Armando Benitez missed more than half the season.
The Giants were a very old team, and yet they still wanted to contend. They wanted to wait until Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 756 home runs to rebuild. So in the meantime, the Giants signed other aging veterans to build a contender. Those signings included outfielder Steve Finley and utility man Mark Sweeney. The Giants also invited pitcher Jamey Wright and their old shortstop, Jose Vizcaino to Spring Training.
Bonds came into the season with 708 career home runs, and it wasn’t just his chase that was going to make things chaotic. Just about three weeks into camp, ‘Game of Shadows,’ a detail of Bonds’ history of PED use and the BALCO Scandal, was released. Bonds was also followed around by media from all over the country, as well as ESPN, who was running a reality TV mini series called ‘Bonds on Bonds.’
Bonds’ every move was under a microscope, and he handled himself very well. However, he struggled early on. It was clear that after three knee surgeries the year prior, he wasn’t his old self at the age of 41. Bonds had a hard time pulling the ball, and he didn’t hit his first home run of the season until April 22 in Colorado, almost three weeks into the season. It was an opposite-field shot, as were a lot of his home runs in 2006.
As a team, the Giants were predicted to win a weak National League West. They got off to a .500 start, and they had their share of excitement. They had a comeback win against the Braves in the bottom of the ninth inning on April 9. They had a dramatic win against Arizona Diamondbacks, when Randy Winn robbed Eric Byrnes of a go-ahead home run to end the top of the ninth and Moises Alou hit a walk-off home run to start the bottom of the ninth.
Bonds on Bonds was scrapped halfway into may, and Bonds tied Babe Ruth for second on the all-time home run list at 714 on May 20, across the Bay in Oakland. Bonds then passed Ruth eight days later at AT&T Park.
The Giants couldn’t escape .500, but neither could anybody else in the division, as every team in the National League West was within five games of each other at the All-Star Break. The Giants made a move to bolster the offense, as they traded relief pitcher Jeremy Accardo to the Toronto Blue Jays for first-baseman Shea Hillenbrand. The Giants then got into first place on July 22 after taking the first three games of a four-game set against the Padres.
However, after Armando Benitez blew a save—a regular occurrence for him—on July 23 and the Giants ended up losing in extra innings, they lost nine-straight. Everything just went south, and it was highlighted—or I should say lowlighted on Aug. 4 at AT&T against the Rockies, when Barry Bonds was tossed by umpire Ron Kulpa, resulting in the fans pelting trash onto the field.
Despite ultimately losing 16 out of 19 games, the Giants only fell to seven and a half games back in the NL West. Then on Aug. 14, the Giants suddenly took off. They swept the Padres in four games, and that started a stretch in which they won 20 out of 29. Bonds started pulling the ball again, and they had timely offense that could come back late in games.
The Giants were right back in it, as they were 74-72, three games back in the West and two and a half games back in the Wild Card with just two-and-a-half weeks to go. Then, just like the end of July, they collapsed again, as they lost 13 of their 15 to go 76-85.
Manager Felipe Alou, who had lost control of the clubhouse, was let go after the season, and it was clear that the team was way too old to produce anymore magic anytime soon.